Survival Tip #11: Righteousness

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 8/30/2020
Proverbs  Wisdom 

This morning we’re concluding our Proverbs series. Next week, we start a new series called Stand Firm which is a study of 1 Peter. However, I must confess, I’m not personally finished with Proverbs. I’ve never contemplated them more thoroughly or deeply than these past few months. It’s like an entirely new galaxy of fresh wisdom and insight has been opened up to me that I couldn’t explore, not even over the course of a lifetime.

Our final topic concerns Proverbs 1:3, where we read that the Proverbs are for “receiving prudent instruction in righteousness, justice, and integrity;” There couldn’t be three more timely words (concepts) for us to lay hold of than righteousness, justice, and integrity. If ever there were a cord of three strands that could not easily be broken, it would be these. They really are the core upon which all society and civilization and the Kingdom of God are built. When all three coexist, you have a powerful society or Kingdom. When even one strand breaks, the whole collapses.

Our society is rapidly declining (just like ancient Rome) for loss of Righteousness, Justice, and Integrity. First, there is a loss of Righteousness. By righteousness I’m not referring to one’s personal self-concept of righteousness. Each person carries with them their own concept of righteousness—and by each persons’ own self measure—they feel quite self-righteous!

What we’re really talking about is a loss of any Universal, Absolute, Transcendent, Divine concept of righteousness—like the kind of Righteousness that can be rooted in knowing and fearing the Personal and Holy God of Scripture. When we subtract any Divine referent for Righteousness, we’re only left with the arbitrary standards of man. Everyone becomes righteous in their own eyes. Essentially were left with Proverbs 30:12, “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filth.” But also, were left with Proverbs 28:2a, “When a land is in rebellion, it has many rulers…” Essentially every man becomes a lawless lawbreaker unto himself. God is no longer lawgiver/judge—MAN IS.

So, in our society we’ve jettisoned any basis for Righteousness because we’ve jettisoned fear of God. We’re only left now with man being the measure of himself. There is no Divine, Good, Holy, Perfect Plumb-line. Just the crooked measuring themselves up against the more crooked. But it gets worse.

Second, there is a loss of Justice. What does Justice look like in a society where man makes himself his own measure of his own righteousness? Well, man goes on a desperate search for a God-substitute. In our culture JUSTICE has become a kind of empty banner into which we pour what seems right.
Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death.” In our culture there is no longer Justice based on Righteousness. There is justice based on the “Scientific Consensus.” On Science, or the Sciences (with a capital S). But exactly who or what is the Science? Upon what worldview, what presuppositions, what assumptions, what data, methodology, what models, what proofs is that Scientific Consensus built? Is “SCIENCE” infallible? Is it questionable? Is it accountable? Has there ever been a time when the Scientific Consensus was shown to be wrong?

There is justice based on “Statistical Majorities.” What do 51% of people think/feel? Let’s take a vote! Let’s do a survey! Well has the majority opinion ever been wrong? Has the majority opinion ever shown itself to be prone to manipulation by anyone? Like, by the Mass Media? Like, by the Entertainment complex? Like, by evil disinformation and propaganda? The majority opinion on virtually every matter of morality has radically shifted in just the past 3-5 years!

We look to the Supreme Court for justice. The President. The Senate, the House of Representatives, our electoral system, our balances of power. These institutions jettisoned any Christian base a half-century ago. Not only do they make arbitrary judgements, they cowardly neglect matters of true justice whenever it proves too costly, or politically risky.

So then we look to Human Experience, hoping to find some sufficient base for justice. There is the youth experience (of the Hipsters and Punks). There is the Woman experience (of the feminists and #MeToo movement). There is the LGBTQ++ Experience (of the sexual identity movement). There is the Black experience (of Black Lives Matters organization). Or there is the Status Quo of the White Experience—the rule of a white majority—the cry on our streets is that our majority white culture has been profoundly indifferent, too often incompetent, and unconscionably cruel (oppressive) to the marginalized.

So let me say this. When we jettison any Divine referent for Righteousness were left only with POWER. Justice becomes less about “Righteousness” and more about a sheer deadly power struggle, one that plays out on our streets. The problem with POWER is that without a transcendent standard/accountability to true Righteousness, one group proves itself just as cruel as the next. Those who denounce police for their cruelty have proven infinitely more cruel themselves.

Third, there is the loss of Integrity. What we have today is total sensuality, totally anarchy, total self-rule, personal freedom without form/boundary. What
we have today is lawlessness. One man’s freedoms colliding against another man’s freedoms. A cataclysmic chain reaction of each person triggering, provoking, micro/macro-aggressing against the next. Self-rule sounds really cool until you realize that is only takes a population of two people to utterly obliterate justice/fairness for the other. Remember Cain and Abel? When the one brother felt he was being tread upon he killed the other.

So how do we turn the tide of a society that’s jettisoned its base of Righteousness, that’s left only with the cruel injustice of power politics, that’s fill with self-centered, self-ruling, sensual citizens?

Here is what we do. We turn one soul after another back to a Fear of God—starting with putting ourselves and our own house in order FIRST. This generation believes its practicing True Biblical Justice. It believes it is truly patterning its social action after our Lord, Jesus Christ. But it’s an amazing thing to read the gospels and discover Jesus’ actual pattern of ministry. Jesus came preaching and teaching true righteousness. In encounter after encounter, you’ll see this was Jesus pattern. What was he doing? Jesus was giving people an eternal foundation, a transcendent base, a true WORD for GOD, an Absolute, a Standard upon which to then build their lives. Without RIGHTEOUSNESS, social justice is little more than exchanging cruelty under one power for cruelty under another. Assyrian cruelty for Babylonian, for Persian/Mede, Grecian, Roman cruelty…

In Proverbs, True Righteousness is Fearing God. Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Proverbs 6:16-19 says, “The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers.” Ah, Righteousness isn’t arbitrary its rooted in God!

True Justice is using power to serve (love, advocate for the least). Proverbs 31:8-9, “Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.” Proverbs 3:27, “When it is in your power, don’t withhold good from the one to whom it belongs.” Proverbs 21:13, “The one who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will himself also call out and not be answered.” Proverbs 22:22-23, “Don’t rob a person because he is poor, and don’t crush the oppressed at the city gate, for the Lord will champion their cause and will plunder those who plunder them.”
By the way, Proverbs goes HARD after Kings and Rulers and Leaders. Most every one of us has “some” level of power, authority, responsibility over another human being. If you are a parent, pastor, teacher, employer, in government, etc. If we use our power, privileges, position, superiority, or supremacy for selfish gain (and not serving others, especially the least) God Himself will oppose us.

Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to investigate a matter.” It is the duty of Kings to use their privileges (“privileges” is just another word for power) to administer and establish justice. Kings must literally be sober less we pervert justice (Prov. 31:4-5) Kings must be impartial. Proverbs 24:23-25, “These sayings also belong to the wise: It is not good to show partiality in judgment. Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent”—peoples will curse him, and nations will denounce him; but it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and a generous blessing will come to them.” Kings must not be manipulated by gifts or bribes. Proverbs 17:23, “A wicked person secretly takes a bribe to subvert the course of justice.” Proverbs 19:6, “Many seek a ruler’s favor, and everyone is a friend of one who gives gifts.” Kings must love truth. Proverbs 29:12, “If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials will be wicked.”

The bottom line is that God himself is our personal standard of Righteousness. We’re to use our privilege and power to administer justice in whatever position God has placed us in life. Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Proverbs 29:14, “A king who judges the poor with fairness—his throne will be established forever.” Proverbs 21:15, “Justice executed is a joy to the righteous but a terror to evildoers.” And finally…

True Integrity is personal sacrifice. No matter what the cost, and no matter what anybody else is doing (or not doing)…we must always pay the personal price for the good of God and mankind. Proverbs 21:3 says, “Doing what is righteous and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” But look at this verse as well… Proverbs 29:27, “An unjust person is detestable to the righteous; and one whose way is upright is detestable to the wicked.” Do you see? Maintaining integrity is going to be costly and even more so in a wicked world.

So much to say but we must conclude. The Proverbs lay out boundaries we should never transgress. Taking a life. Doing violence. Inflaming cities. Taking personal property. Bearing false witness. Perverting the process of justice. Punishing good people and rewarding evildoers. Ignoring cries of poor. Exploiting people. Hoarding wealth. . . PROVERBS 28!

Scripture Verses

Proverbs 1:3,7; 3:27; 6:16-19; 14:12, 34; 17:23; 19:6; 21: 13, 15, 27; 22:22-23; 24:23-25; 25:2; 28; 29:14, 27; 31:8-9

Worship Playlist

Shout by Passion

Way Maker by Passion

Raise A Hallelujah by Bethel Music

King of My Heart by Bethel Music

Study Questions

  1. Why is injustice so infuriating?
  2. Why do we use dishonesty to take advantage of others? What does this reveal in our relationship with God?
  3. Read Proverbs 2:6-9. Turn this passage into a prayer for you personally.

Apply It!


Our In the Wilderness sermon series booklet provides a place for sermon notes, questions for reflection, and a challenge to read through the book of Proverbs in 31 days. You may pick up a booklet at Lakeside on Sunday mornings or weekdays between 8:00 am & 4:00 pm.